Right Before My Eyes

On Tuesday, as I drove home from work, I came THISCLOSE to being in a serious car wreck. It was one of those “life flashing before my eyes” moments, and it left me shaky for more than an hour after.

It was 100% the other driver’s fault — and it was an egregious traffic error on his/her part. The driver exited a parking lot, crossed two lanes of traffic (including mine) and darted against the oncoming cars to make an illegal u-turn. It was nuts. And it happened so fast that all I could do was instinctively hit the brakes, swerve and lay on my horn. I’m not sure the driver saw me until that loud blast of noise. Whether he/she was drunk, distracted or just made an innocent misjudgment, I don’t know. But it was as close a call as I’ve had in a long time.

We somehow — miraculously — managed to stop our cars just in time, each of us choosing the right way to swerve, coming to a stop parallel to each other and perpendicular to the road markings. As I caught my breath, the other driver took off…going over the median just to get to the other side of the divided road.

I’m not immune to driving mistakes. I was in a terrible accident years ago and nearly totaled my car. Everyone was OK, but I was at fault, no question. The conditions were bad, it was very early in the morning, the other driver didn’t have her headlights on and I turned into her car, failing to yield. My car spent three months in the shop and I rode my bike to work every day. Lesson learned. Look twice, turn once.

And sure, I have, in the past, checked my email at red lights and glanced at text messages when I should have had all of my attention on the road. In the last year, I have made a very concerted effort to put the phone away and keep my eyes on the road, but I understand the itchy need to hit refresh on a smartphone inbox…

In this case, I did everything right. The phone was on vibrate and tucked away. The radio was on but not too loud. I was going just under the speed limit. The conditions were beautiful. I had my eyes up and my ears open. And I still almost had a very bad day.

So be careful out there, OK? I’m brought back to my first days of driving, when my dad would explain to me that being a defensive driver might save my life someday. That day might have been Tuesday. We’re all driving 2-ton deadly weapons, so if this can be a reminder to put the phone down, keep your head up and look twice, turn once…I hope it keeps you safe.

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  1. says

    Now that I live in the boonies, I am especially aware how fragile and vulnerable we all are as we speed down the highway. I expect to drive extra-defensibly on my country roads (who knows when I deer or turkey or other live creature will cross my path), but don’t always think about how aware we need to be on high speed roads. So proud of you for listening to your dad.

  2. says

    A similar situation just happened to some friends of mine, and they are new parents, too. Their baby was in the car as they were almost sideswiped, then watched as the car careened into a car ahead of them on the highway. Being a parent adds a whole new dimension to it. Kudos to you for having your phone not even in sight. I feel like every time I look over at other cars these days, the driver is staring at their phone WHILE DRIVING. It’s insane. Glad you are OK!!

  3. Suzy says

    So glad you are ok and thanks for taking the time to remind us all! I am amazed at all the drivers who hand hold and actively type/look at their phones while driving at 65 miles an hour on a 4 lane highway! It is scary! I even find that with blue tooth in my own car that it can be incredibly distracting.

  4. says

    My brothers taught me to drive and they always described it as playing a Pac-Man game. You look all over the screen to see where the ghosts are and where you are going and not just right in front of where your Pac-Man is going.
    Silly, but I could relate to it at the time. :-)
    Glad you are ok!

  5. says


    I’m so glad you were able to avoid the accident!

    We ended 2012 with a big car wreck and totaled our car. The road conditions were bad and even though my husband hit the breaks, the other car pulled out in front of us and there was nothing he could have done.

    You make a good point about the phone! Even though this was not an issue in this particular case, I decided to keep my phone in my purse. We think that if the phone rings, we have to pick it up. If there is a text or an email, we have to answer immediately. It’s too bad that something like this has to happen to remind us that we need to be careful.

    It’s scary to think how in one moment everything can change.

  6. says

    So glad you are OK! My son was in a fendbender this summer that was not his fault (in the middle of a chain reaction) and I showed him all the things the police could check on the police report – cellphone use, loud radio, etc. It was a good reminder of all the distractions that could cause an accident.

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